Story By Jenn Gidman
Images By Brian McIntosh
Canada Unveiled by Brian McIntosh
Photographic pioneer Brian McIntosh uses his Tamron 10-24mm VC and SP 24-70mm VC G2 lenses to reveal his nation’s hidden gems.
Brian McIntosh is used to wandering all over the globe to capture his travel and nature photos, with nearly 100 countries under his belt—his favorite destinations have included St. Lucia, the Solomon Islands, and the island nation of Seychelles. But, like the rest of the world over the past year, the self-taught Toronto photographer has been stuck at home during the pandemic, which afforded him an opportunity to do something he never anticipated doing: He set out to explore Canada.
“I started checking out places locally, which I’d overlooked for much of my life,” says Brian. “After I began seeing what Ontario had to offer, I then branched out to neighboring provinces, heading all the way out west to Alberta and British Columbia. During this process, as I got to know Canada better, I decided I wanted to start documenting the country’s hidden gems—the places that even Canadians might not know about. Now that I’ve seen so much of it, I can say that Canada is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I’m not sure how I’d ignored it for so long.”
To capture his photos, Brian tapped into his Tamron 10-24mm VC HLD wide-angle lens and his SP 24-70mm VC G2 lens. “I love the 10-24 because I like to capture not only the landscapes in front of me, but also a subject against that landscape, which is usually me,” he says. “I don’t want the image to necessarily be about me—I want it to be about where I’m at, and the experience of enjoying that landscape. But when you add in that human element, it makes that experience feel much more real. The 10-24 gives me the wide angle I need to bring that experience out. The 24-70, with its maximum F/2.8 aperture, gives me the ability to shoot in lower-light situations. These are the two lenses I use 90% of the time.”
“Exploring this country has been amazing,” Brian says of his yearlong adventure. “I have a newfound respect for Canada in terms of what it has to offer.” Read on about some of the obscure treasures Brian has discovered during the past year of exploring his home country.
This waterfall is the exact definition of what a hidden gem is because it was actually hidden. It’s located on Sombrio Beach on Vancouver Island. When you’re walking on the beach, you don’t see this waterfall. But I’d read about it online, and I knew if I followed a trail of water trickling down to the beach from the forested area, I’d find this waterfall, hidden away in this cave. This definitely doesn’t look like Canada to me—it reminds me more of the Caribbean, with all of that lush green.
This hotel in Mont-Tremblant has been around for a while, but people still don’t know about it as much as I think they should. My goal was to have people see this picture and want to find out where this hotel is. I was fortunate, because I got clear skies during sunset on the first evening I was there, so I knew I had to take the photo right away. That’s the type of photographer I am: I don’t wait till tomorrow if I can take full advantage of what I see today.
One thing I don’t think many people realize is that Canada has gorgeous turquoise glacial lakes, especially in the Joffre Lakes area of British Columbia. The vibrant colors are caused by glacial silt that’s suspended in the waters, reflecting green and blue wavelengths of light. This photo is of Middle Joffre Lake, which involved a grueling hike to get to. The colors you see here are the actual colors I saw when I was there—I don’t tend to overedit photos like this, because I don’t want people to be disappointed if they end up visiting the locations I photograph.
This photo was taken at another beautiful glacial lake: Peyto Lake in Banff National Park. This vantage point isn’t well-known to most tourists. Typically, when someone heads out to Peyto Lake, they’ll hike 10 minutes up to the viewing platform, take a few pictures, and head back down. However, if you navigate your way through an unmarked trail within the forest adjacent to the viewing platform, you’ll eventually find an opening with unobstructed views of the whole lake—it only takes another 15 minutes or so to get there. The elevation is much higher than the viewing platform, and the scenery is much more rugged.
I wanted to show a different side of Toronto, so I collaborated with the Bisha Hotel, which has a rooftop infinity pool. There are tons of photos taken from this vantage point, but I wanted to do something a bit different, so I pitched the idea of a sunrise breakfast photo, showing me enjoying the first meal of the day, in the pool, with the CN Tower in the background. It was the perfect morning, and that’s what I wanted to portray.
The next two photos you see here were taken in Hide-a-Way Hills and Whispering Springs, respectively—“glamping” getaways in Ontario. Discovering different things to do during the pandemic was a challenge, but glamping, which combines elements of camping with the amenities of home, fit the bill.
I wanted to showcase the uniqueness of both of these sites, which many people simply don’t know about. The first photo at Hide-a-Way Hills perfectly aligned with my theme: It’s a fairly new place, where you can rent out this secluded cabin retreat—complete with a bedroom that has floor-to-ceiling windows—in the 1.2-acre backyard of the owners’ home. The second photo shows Whispering Springs, where every single tent on the property is designed differently. I just added the lights and the plants and moved the chair to make the image more appealing.
This is one of my favorite photos, specifically because of how it came to be. I was exploring Long Beach on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, a shoreline that stretches for about 10 miles. There were wildfires blazing in Washington state at the time, and so the skies were extremely hazy. I was disappointed when I first got there, because I felt like I wasn’t going to get any kind of view worth shooting, but then I noticed that, because of the rain that day, the beach surface was reflective. I knew if had something colorful that would pop in the photo, that would make for a pretty cool shot. I happened to have on bright orange shorts that day, so I set my camera up and captured myself running across the beach. It’s simple, but with that reflection, it’s also quite unique.
To see more of Brian McIntosh’s work, check out his Instagram.